Hatred, Division, Change, and its Challenge! March 28, 2017

Over the past eight years I kept on hearing how divided America was, as if President Obama precipitated this new phenomenon.  Therefore, was this some new and strange dynamic that had never existed before? Well to put it into historical and the most simplistic terms, America has been divided from day one. Whether it was over the American Revolution, and who to back, our King or our independence, debate over the Constitution, or the issues of slavery, international trade, alliances with Britain or France, the rural South over the industrial North, Americans found much to be divided about. As we moved past the Civil War, Suffrage, Women’s Rights, and the rise of the Union movement divided people and led to debate, violence, and strife.

Our divisions resulted in the disastrous Civil War which proportionally killed more Americans, by far, than all our wars combined. Statistically, compared to today’s population, the Civil War would have killed over seven million Americans. Even in our parent’s time, the divisions over immigration quotas, isolationism, World War II preparedness, labor rights, the worthiness of the Korean War, and the McCarthy Era, were deep and contentious.  Had things changed for our generation? For sure Vietnam, the Draft, Civil Rights, Integration, the issue of busing, neighborhood schools, de facto and de jure segregation, Affirmative Action, women’s health issues, birth control, Choice, gun control, Gay Rights, the separation of church and state, and even free speech have divided our Nation.

In truth, many of these issues were resolved. Mainstream political leaders of the center left and right adjusted to the changing social values, morays and realities and found compromises. Were these compromises perfect? Of course not! No compromise makes everyone completely happy! In the past, especially with the issue of slavery we had tried to solve this economic and social stain on our society with the Three-Fifths Compromise, the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the Compromise of 1850. In actuality these were failures, as we ignored the inevitable and paid a huge price in blood and treasure.

Why today are the issues we face any bigger, any more important or as threatening? In fact, they are not. But, today, in the wake of the Internet, the rise of talk radio and the accelerated “Greed Factor,” we have seen the dramatic rise of a new dynamic. This force has emerged after years in the making. It started to emerge in the Nixon Era with the “Silent Majority,” and then it blossomed with Reagan and his neo-Goldwaterism. It was a vestige of Joe McCarthy and the Witch Hunts of the Korean War-Red Scare Era. It does not have the old shape of North versus South, or the division over race or religion.  It isn’t over free trade or tariffs. It isn’t over States’ Rights or even American Exceptionalism!

It has crystalized in this hyper-age of hucksterism, which has been long a factor regarding the American culture. We now see its full-blown manifestation in this coming Age of Trumpism.  America has turned to a carnival barker, a super Billy Bigelow from “Carousel,” a valueless, creature, who worships glitter, excess, illusionary glamour, and the witless idea of notoriety to help sell junk and disgraced policies. First we heard the clarion call, “Make America Great Again!” Then we heard the double-talk, the accusations, the insults, the outrageous lies, the bold promises, the baseless assertions, and then we witnessed the age old tactics of “divide and conquer” and the “Ends justify the means!” Next we’ll be hearing about how America was founded on “Social Darwinism,” or the survival of the fittest. This is not new. Machiavelli wrote about this hundreds of years ago, we saw the power concentrated first in the Church, then in the rise of the nation/state along with the age of the “Divine Right of Kings,” and then the Age of Revolution, the empty promises of the regicides, the rise of Communism and of course stain of fascism.

Are we now entering into another era of the next false G-d? Are we entering into an era of know-nothingness, mythology, parallel “truths,” or hyper hucksterism? If answers to complex problems were simple, why have they been ignored? One should read, “The Power of Myth,” by Joseph Campbell, or re-watch the PBS series hosted by Bill Moyers with Campbell, which was aired in 1988. Somewhere in the near future, Americans have to wake up and become aware of the realities of the world we live in and not remain captives of the myths we believe about ourselves. We are not G-d’s gift to mankind. We are made of flesh and blood, and no more heroic than anyone else. We are basically a country of immigrants, who have brought us the best and brightest, along with a lot of societal and generational baggage. When we start to “grow up” we may then start to reject these myths and the false gods, embodied in empty personage of Donald Trump.

This does not have to be a new age of hyper-divisiveness. This does not have to be an era dominated by mindless fear; dominated by race hatred, religious strife, gender competition, and class warfare!  As we address this new challenge, we must confront our skeptical masses, who seek easy solutions and simplistic nostrums, with strength, realism, knowledge, facts, education and unity. If we turn away and ignore what is out there, assuming it will wither away, we will be fooling ourselves, indulging in our own brand of self-delusion, and condemning ourselves to a bleak future. As the philosopher, and essayist, George Santayana wrote: “Progress far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Let us focus on what made us great and not the Pied Pipers who have led us down the path of delusion, division and delusion.              

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A lifelong New Yorker, who now lives full-time in Palm Beach County, Richard was raised in Mount Vernon, New York and he was educated in the Mount Vernon public schools He graduated from Boston University with a BA in American History. After spending a year on Wall Street as a research analyst with Bache & Co., he joined a manufacturing and importing firm, where over the next twenty-five years he rose to the position of chief operating officer. After the sale of that business, Richard entered into the financial services field with Metropolitan Life and is a Registered Representative, who has been associated with Acorn Financial Services which is affiliated with John Hancock Life Insurance Company of Boston, Ma. Today, he is a retired broker who had specialized in long-term care insurance and financial planning. One of Richard’s recent activities was to advise and encourage communities to seek ways to incorporate “sustainability and resiliency” into their future infrastructure planning. After a lifetime in politics, with many years working as a district leader, which involved party organizational work, campaign chair activity and numerous other political tasks, Richard has been involved with numerous civic and social causes. In recent years, Richard served in 2005 as the campaign coordinator of the Re-Elect Paul Feiner Campaign in Greenburgh, NY and he again chaired Supervisor Feiner’s successful landslide victory in 2007. Over the next few years, he advised a number of political candidates. He has served as an appointed Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Greenburgh, with responsibilities regarding the town’s “liaison program.” He was a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board of the Town of Greenburgh, NY. Richard has lectured on FDR, The New Deal and 20th century American history in the Mount Vernon schools, at the Westchester Council of Social Studies annual conference in White Plains, and at many senior citizen groups, which include appearances at the Old Guard of White Plains, the Rotary Clubs of Elmsford and White Plains, and various synagogue groups around Westchester. In the winter of 2006 Richard was the leader of the VOCAL forum, sponsored by the Westchester County Office of Aging, which addresses the concerns of Westchester County’s Intergenerational Advocacy Educational Speak-out forums for senior citizens. Richard has given lectures for the Active Retirement Project, which is co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Center on the Hudson, the Greenburgh Hebrew Center, and other groups around Westchester County. Richard also is the founder and Chairperson of the Jon Breen Memorial Fund, that judges and grants annual prizes to students at Mount Vernon High School who submit essays on public policy themes. He also sponsors the Henry M. Littlefield History Prize for the leading MVHS history student. Richard serves on the Student College Scholarship Committee of Mount Vernon High School. In past years Richard chaired and moderated the Jon Breen Fund Award’s cablecast program with the Mayor and local and school officials. Richard has been a member of Blythedale Children’s Hospital’s Planned Giving Professional Advisory Board, and was a founding member of the committee to re-new the FDR Birthday Balls of the 1930’s and 1940’s with the March of Dimes’ effort to eliminate birth defects. Their renewal dinner was held at Hyde Park on January 30, 2003. Richard is currently an active contributor to the Roosevelt Institute, which is involved in many pursuits which included the opening of the Henry A. Wallace Center at Hyde Park, and the Eleanor Roosevelt – Val-Kill Foundation. In 2007, he proposed to the City of Mount Vernon an effort to develop an arts, educational, and cultural center as part of a downtown re-development effort. Richard was a team partner with the Infrastructure & Energy Solutions Group. IEFG which has developed innovative strategies for the 21st Century. Richard hosted a weekly program on WVOX-1460 AM radio, called “The Advocates,” which was concerned with “public policy” issues. The show, which was aired from 2007 until May 15, 2013, has had amongst its guests; Representative Charles Rangel, Chairperson of the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, along with hundreds of others. All the 300 shows are archived at http://advocates-wvox.com. Richard currently gives lectures on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR and the Jewish Community, The New Deal, FDR and Douglas MacArthur, 20th Century American Foreign Policy Resulting in Conflict, and Israel’s Right to Exist. Richard lives in Boynton Beach, Fl, with his wife Linda of 44 years. They have two married children. Their daughter Dana is a Rutgers College graduate, with a MS from Boston University, and is the Assistant Director of Recruitment at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Their son Jon is an electrical engineering graduate of Princeton University and a senior software architect at NY/Mellon Bank in NYC. Richard J. Garfunkel rjg727@comcast.net Recent Appearances: KTI Synagogue, Rye Brook, NY- Long Term Care & Estate Conservation- Anshe Shalom Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY- Long Term Care- American Legion Post, Valhalla, NY- Long Term Care and Asset Protection- Doyle Senior Ctr, New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care and Asset Protection- AME Methodist Ministers, New Rochelle, NY, LTC and Charitable Giving- Profession Women in Construction, Elmsford, NY, LTC and Business Benefits- Kol Ami Synagogue- White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Disability - Beth El Men's Club-New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care-Is it Necessary- Greater NY Dental Meeting Javits Ctr, NY, NY- LTC and Disability- IBEW Local #3 , White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Asset Protection, Health Fair -Bethel Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY-LTC and Disability, Heath Fair- Riverdale Mens Club CSAIR- Riverdale, NY- LTC- Life Weight Watchers of Westchester and the Bronx-LTC and Tax Implications Sunrise Assisted Living of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, NY-LTC Sprain Brook Manor of Scarsdale-LTC- November 15, 2001 Sunrise Assisted Living of Stamford, Connecticut, February 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, February, 2002 The Old Guard Society of White Plains, NY, April, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY August, 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, October, 2002 JCC of Scarsdale, Scarsdale, NY, November, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY, January, 2003 The Rotary Club of White Plains, NY January, 2003 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY April, 2003 Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, NY January, 2004 Mount Vernon High School, Mount Vernon, NY March 2004 Kol Ami/JCC of White Plains, NY November, 2004 The Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, January 2005 The Sunrise of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, April, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, November, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, December, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, January, 2005 Rotary Club of Elmsford, April, 2006 Kiwanis Club of Yonkers, June, 2006 Greenburgh Jewish Center, November, 2006 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, February, 2007 Hebrew Institute, White Plains, March, 2007 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, NY, April, 2007 Westchester Meadows. Valhalla, November, 2007 Hebrew Institute. White Plains, November, 2007 Art Zuckerman Radio Show- January, 2008 JCC of the Hudson, Tarrytown, February, 2008 Matt O’Shaughnessy Radio Show, March, 2008 WVOX –Election Night Coverage, November, 2008 WVOX – Inaugural Coverage, January 20, 2009 The Advocates-host of the WVOX Radio Show, 2007- 2010 Rotary Club of Pleasantville, February, 2009 Hebrew Institute of White Plains, May, 2009 JCC Hudson, Tarrytown, December, 2009-10-11-12 Brandeis Club, Yonkers, March 25, 2010

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